Secondary Recovery

Oil production is separated into three phases: primary, secondary and tertiary, which is also known as Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR). Primary oil recovery is limited to hydrocarbons that naturally rise to the surface, or those that use artificial lift devices, such as pump jacks.

The second stage of hydrocarbon production during which an external fluid such as water or gas is injected into the reservoir through injection wells located in rock that has fluid communication with production wells. The purpose of secondary recovery is to maintain reservoir pressure and to displace hydrocarbons toward the wellbore. The most common secondary recovery techniques are gas injection and waterflooding. Normally, gas is injected into the gas cap and water is injected into the production zone to sweep oil from the reservoir. A pressure-maintenance program can begin during the primary recovery stage, but it is a form or enhanced recovery. The secondary recovery stage reaches its limit when the injected fluid (water or gas) is produced in considerable amounts from the production wells and the production is no longer economical. The successive use of primary recovery and secondary recovery in an oil reservoir produces about 15% to 40% of the original oil in place.


Gas Injection

Gas reinjection is the reinjection of natural gas into an underground reservoir, typically one already containing both natural gas and crude oil, in order to increase the pressure within the reservoir and thus induce the flow of crude oil or else sequester gas that cannot be exported. This is not to be confused with gas lift, where gas is injected into the annulus of the well rather than the reservoir. After the crude has been pumped out, the natural gas is once again recovered. Since many of the wells found around the world contain heavy crude, this process increases their production. The basic difference between light crude and heavy crude is its viscosity and pumpability - the lighter the crude the easier it is to pump. Recovery of hydrocarbons in a well is generally limited to 50% (heavy crudes) and 75-80% (light crudes). Recycling of natural gas or other inert gases causes the pressure to rise in the well, thus causing more gas molecules to dissolve in the oil lowering its viscosity and thereby increasing the well's output. Air is not suitable for repressuring wells because it tends to cause deterioration of the oil, thus carbon dioxide or natural gas is used to repressure the well. The term 'gas-reinjection' is also sometimes referred to as repressuring--the term being used only to imply that the pressure inside the well is being increased to aid recovery.

Injection or reinjection of carbon dioxide also takes place in order to reduce the emission of CO2 into the atmosphere, a form of carbon sequestration. This has been proposed as a method to combat climate change, allowing mass storage of CO2 over a geological timescale.


The principal reason for waterflooding an oil reservoir is to increase the oil-production rate and, ultimately, the oil recovery. This is accomplished by "voidage replacement"—injection of water to increase the reservoir pressure to its initial level and maintain it near that pressure. The water displaces oil from the pore spaces, but the efficiency of such displacement depends on many factors (e.g., oil viscosity and rock characteristics). In oil fields such as Wilmington (California, US) and Ekofisk (North Sea), voidage replacement also has been used to mitigate additional surface subsidence. In these cases, the high porosity of the unconsolidated sandstones of the Wilmington oil field’s reservoirs and of the soft chalk reservoir rock in the Ekofisk oil field had compacted significantly when the reservoir pressure was drawn down during primary production.


Gas well deliqufication, also referred to as "gas well dewatering", is the general term for technologies used to remove water or condensates build-up from producing gas wells.

When natural gas flows to the surface in a producing gas well, the gas carries liquids to the surface if the velocity of the gas is high enough. A high gas velocity results in a mist flow pattern in which liquids are finely dispersed in the gas. Consequently, a low volume of liquid is present in the tubing or production conduit, resulting in a pressure drop caused by gravity acting on the flowing fluids. As the gas velocity in the production tubing drops with time, the velocity of the liquids carried by the gas declines even faster. Flow patterns of liquids on the walls of the conduit cause liquid to accumulate in the bottom of the well, which can either slow or stop gas production altogether.

Possible solutions to this problem include the installation of a velocity string, a capillary string injecting foamers (often with corrosive effects on surface wellhead seals), or a pump to continuously or intermittently pump the water to the surface to remove the hydrostaticbarrier that the water creates. A common practice is to use a device called a plunger to lift the liquids. Improved electrical pumps coming onto the market may enhance the effectiveness of the technology.

The same concept is also applicable to oil wells when they are at the end stage of production. In this case, the reservoir pressure drops to such a low level that it cannot lift the weight of the oil/water column to the surface. By injecting a gas (such as nitrogen) into the wellbore at a specific point, the density of the fluid column can be reduced to the point that the reservoir pressure is once again able to lift fluids to the surface.